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25 Best Classic Cocktails Everyone Should Try Once

Five kinds of classic cocktails

Explore the ageless realm of mixology and fall in love with the timeless appeal of classic cocktails. We encourage you to read this article as we present a carefully chosen list of classic cocktails that any fan of mixed drinks should try at least once. Classic cocktails have a rich history and the ideal balance of flavors; they are admired for their elegance and simplicity. Each cocktail has a history of tradition and skill, from the zesty kick of a margarita to the crisp and refreshing bite of a martini to the smoky allure of an old fashion. Our investigation will focus on these cherished classics, honoring their continuing appeal, historical significance, and the creativity that goes into creating their ageless recipes. Come along on this exciting voyage through the world of mixology, where we’ll show you how to appreciate the sophistication of a well-made cocktail and taste the essence of these popular drinks.

Pina Colada

Homemade Frozen Pina Colada Cocktail

First on our list, we have a cocktail that can only be described as an oldie but goldie. The Pina Colada is a delicious and tropical rum cocktail that has been enjoyed by holidaymakers for decades. Featuring a classic blend of white rum, pineapple juice and coconut cream, this cocktail is capable of transporting you to the Bahamas with one sip. Because of its sweet and creamy nature, the Pina Colada is the perfect cocktail for a beginner drinker. And the simplistic recipe means that you can even try making them from home.

Ingredients:

  • White Rum (2 oz)
  • Pineapple Juice (6 oz)
  • Coconut Cream (3 oz)
  • Pineapple Wedge (for garnish)

Mojito

The mojito is made with rum, sparkling water, sugar, lemon juice, ice, and mint

The Mojito is a rum-based cocktail that originated in Cuba, although it has since gone on to become one of the most popular cocktails in the world. The refreshing drink combines white rum with fresh mint and lime juice to create a cocktail that is zesty, sweet and perfect for hot summer days. The Mojito itself is over five hundred years old and was considered a favorite beverage by the American novelist, Ernest Hemingway.

Ingredients:

  • White Rum (2 oz)
  • Lime Juice (0.75 oz)
  • Simple Syrup (0.5 oz)
  • Mint Leaves (x3)

Manhattan

manhanttan cocktail in a glass with cherry and ice

If you have ever watched an episode of Sex and the City – then chances are you have heard of this classic and elegant cocktail already. Believed to have been created at some point during the mid-1800s, the Manhattan is one of the strongest cocktails on our list. Made by blending whiskey, vermouth and angostura bitters – the Manhattan delivers a smooth and distinctive herbal flavor. The cocktail itself will often be a bright red and is traditionally served with a cherry for garnish.

Ingredients:

  • Rye Whiskey (2 oz)
  • Sweet Vermouth (1 oz)
  • Angostura Bitters (2 Dashes)

Gimlet

Gimlet in a cocktail glass

This classic cocktail dates back as far as the 1920s, where it was traditionally made using gin and lime juice. Although the simplistic recipe has not changed drastically over the intervening years, it has become popular to make the drink using vodka instead. The Gimlet delivers a citrusy and slightly sweet taste that is considered cool and refreshing to drink. The cocktail itself is also extremely easy to make and would be the perfect beverage to serve at a 1920s themed event.

Ingredients:

  • Gin or Vodka (2 oz)
  • Lime Juice (0.75 oz)
  • Simple Syrup (0.75 oz)

Mimosa

Three refreshing mimosa cocktails on black background

First created in 1925 by Frank Meier, the Mimosa is a simple yet delicious cocktail that has gone on to become a favorite of brunch-eaters around the world. Combining champagne with fresh orange juice, the cocktail is widely known for its zesty and refreshing properties. Using only two ingredients, the Mimosa may just be the simplest and most iconic cocktail ever made. When making your own from home, we recommend using equal parts of both ingredients. You can also garnish your champagne flute with a slice of orange for some added elegance.

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Ingredients:

  • Champagne (2.5 oz)
  • Orange Juice (2.5 oz)
  • Orange Slice (for garnish)

Martini

Limoncello Martini Cocktail Drink

Shaken not stirred! Sorry, but we had to say it. Martini is arguably one of the most popular and infamous cocktails in the world. With a majority of its fame stemming from its association with a certain government agent – we forget his name. Made using either vodka or gin, the cocktail blends the spirit with dry vermouth to create a smooth and unique flavor. However, we do not recommend ordering a Martini if you are not used to drinking straight spirits. After all, that is essentially what a Martini is.

Ingredients:

  • Gin or Vodka (3 oz)
  • Dry Vermouth (0.5 oz)
  • Lemon Peel or Olive (for garnish)

Sazerac

2 glasses of Sazerac Cocktail with lemon peel on wooden table

Next up we have a slice of American history. Sazerac is now widely believed to be the oldest American cocktail in existence, with the drink’s origins dating back to the early 19th century. Made by combining rye whiskey with simple syrup, bitters and even a splash of absinthe – this particular cocktail delivers a bitter herbal flavor that has been described as fiery by some. So if you enjoy a cocktail that comes with some bite, you should consider trying this New Orleans classic.

Ingredients:

  • Rye Whiskey (2 oz)
  • Simple Syrup (0.5 oz)
  • Peychaud’s Bitters (2 dashes)
  • Absinthe (to rinse)

French 75

French 75 Cocktail with Lemon

This stylish and sleek cocktail blends crisp champagne with gin, lemon juice and simple syrup to create an alcoholic beverage that delivers a powerful kick to the senses. First created by Harry MacElhone during the First World War, the sensation of drinking the cocktail was likened to being shelled by a French 75mm field gun – a powerful piece of weaponry that went on to inspire the cocktail’s name.

Ingredients:

  • Champagne
  • Gin (2 oz)
  • Lemon Juice (0.5 oz)
  • Simple Syrup ( 2 dashes)

Paloma

The Paloma is a tequila-based cocktail that was first created in Mexico, where it remains as popular as the classic Margarita. Designed to be refreshing and thirst-quenching, the vibrant cocktail blends tequila, lime juice and grapefruit soda to create a delicious and zesty cocktail that is simply perfect for the summer season. Alternatively, the grapefruit soda can be replaced by club soda, if you wish to experience a more biting and citrusy taste.

Ingredients:

  • Tequila (2 oz)
  • Lime Juice (0.5 oz)
  • Grapefruit Soda (on top)

Amaretto Sour

Homemade Amaretto Sour Drink

If you are looking for a cocktail that is sweet, syrupy and yet refreshing, then we highly recommend trying the Amaretto Sour. Made using amaretto, lemon juice, simple syrup and egg white – this small and enticing cocktail packs a powerful punch in the sweet department, especially if mixed right. Not only is it smooth and delicious but it is also a complex cocktail to make, which means the bartender could put on a show when making it.

Ingredients:

  • Amaretto (2 oz)
  • Lemon Juice (1 oz)
  • Egg White (1 oz)
  • Simple Syrup (2 dashes)
  • Maraschino Cherries (for garnish)

Old Fashioned

Old Fashioned Cocktail with a slice of lemon and a piece of cherry

When it comes to a simple recipe that every bartender should be familiar with, there’s no greater example than the Old Fashioned. Believed to be one of the oldest cocktail recipes in the world, this particular beverage can trace its origins back to 1880 where it was supposedly created by a man named James E. Pepper. The easy-to-make cocktail blends bourbon and Angostura bitters to create a drink that is delicious, smokey and refreshing. If you go to a cocktail bar and they’ve never heard of this drink, then you better educate them on their history.

Ingredients:

  • Bourbon or Rye Whiskey (2 oz)
  • Angostura Bitters (2 dashes)
  • Sugar (1 cube or 1 tsp)
  • Orange Twist (for garnish)

Cosmopolitan

2 glasses of Cranberry Cosmopolitan Cocktail with lemon

Another cocktail ripped from the world of visual entertainment, the Cosmopolitan saw a rise in popularity during the 1990’s thanks to shows like Sex and the City. A colorful and vibrant spin on the traditional Martini, the Cosmopolitan is a decidedly fruitier cocktail than its transparent cousin. Made by blending citrus vodka with Cointreau, lime juice and cranberry – the cocktail remains a sweet and delicious favorite around the world today.

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Ingredients:

  • Citrus Vodka (1.5 oz)
  • Cointreau (1 oz)
  • Lime Juice (0.5 oz)
  • Cranberry Juice (0.25 oz)
  • Lime Twist (for garnish)

Moscow Mule

Glass of Moscow Mule with Ginger, Ice and Lime

If you prefer your cocktails with a little spice, then we can only recommend the humble Moscow Mule. Made by combining spicy ginger beer with vodka and lime juice, the drink is floral, aromatic and ridiculously refreshing. If you want something to quench your thirst on a hot summer’s day, then look no further than this classic and timeless cocktail. Traditionally served in a copper mug, the Moscow Mule not only tastes delicious but looks incredibly attractive as well.

Ingredients:

  • Vodka (2 oz)
  • Ginger Beer (4-6 oz)
  • Lime Juice (0.5 oz)
  • Lime Slices (for garnish)

Pimm’s Cup

Pimm's cocktail with green mint leaves, strawberry and lemon

Up next we have a cocktail that can only be described as a piece of British sporting history. First established during the 1971 Wimbledon tennis tournament, the Pimm’s cup has become a staple drink of the famous sporting ground, where it is served to spectators every year. The cocktail itself has also become synonymous with British summers and is often enjoyed in the back garden on a hot and sunny day. Blending Pimm’s No.1 with lemonade and a flurry of colorful fruit – the cocktail is simple to make, refreshing and delicious.

Ingredients:

  • Pimm’s No.1 (1.75 oz)
  • Lemonade (5 oz)
  • Mint, Strawberry, Orange and Cucumber (for garnish)

Spritz

Glass of spritz cocktail with a slice of orange and ice

This colorful and refreshing drink is the perfect cocktail for anyone who prefers sweet and delicate flavors over the harshness of alcohol. First created in the 1800s, this delicious wine-based cocktail is still enjoyed throughout Italy to this day, where it remains exceedingly popular among tourists and locals alike. Although the cocktail can be made using any amaro or liqueur as the base, the classic version is traditionally made using Aperol. The cocktail is known for its bright orange hue and fruity undertones and is considered the perfect accompaniment to any Italian holiday.

Ingredients:

  • Aperol (equal parts)
  • Cinzano Prosecco (equal parts)
  • Soda ( a splash)

Negroni

Glass of negroni with a slice of orange

Believed to have originated in Florence, Italy – Negroni is considered a favorite cocktail by bartenders across the world. This is because the cocktail is simple to make and only requires 3 easy to find ingredients. The cocktail itself blends gin, Campari and sweet vermouth to create a beverage that tastes similar to cherries and citrus. The cocktail is best served on a hot summer’s day and is enjoyed widely throughout Europe.

Ingredients:

  • Gin (1 oz)
  • Campari (1 oz)
  • Sweet Vermouth (1 oz)

Margarita

Lemon Margarita cocktails on vibrant turquoise background

Arguably the most iconic tequila-based cocktail in the world, the Margarita has suffered a bad reputation of late due to sweet and frozen mixes being sold under the Margarita name. The traditional Margarita blends the flavors of lime and tequila to create a cocktail that is flavorful, powerful and zesty in taste. You can even make it stronger or weaker, depending on how many shots you add. If you wish to embark on the full Margarita experience, then we suggest adding some Cointreau to the mix to help cut through the sourness. Margaritas are also traditionally served with a salted rim and lime wedge for garnish.

Ingredients:

  • Silver Tequila (2 oz)
  • Cointreau (1 oz)
  • Lime Juice (1 oz)
  • Salt (for the rim)

Sidecar

sidecar cocktail drink

Yet another cocktail that dates back to the roaring 20s, the Sidecar is a simple and effective cocktail that remains a popular favorite across the world. Made by blending brandy, lemon juice and orange liqueur – this refreshing cocktail packs a powerful yet fruity punch that can be enjoyed by all cocktail enthusiasts. Once you give this delightful cocktail a taste, you’ll understand why it has stood the test of time.

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Ingredients:

  • Cognac (2 oz)
  • Cointreau (1 oz)
  • Lemon Juice (0.75 oz)

Mint Julep

Mint Julep with mint, lime, and cherry on a wooden plate

The Mint Julep is a cool and refreshing cocktail that is considered the official drink of the Kentucky Derby. Traditionally made from a combination of bourbon, sugar, mint leaves and water – this cocktail is wonderfully thirst-quenching and surprisingly sweet. Enjoyed throughout the American South, Mint Juleps are usually served in a metal cup with vast amounts of crushed ice. A more modern and simplistic variation of the recipe can be found below.

Ingredients:

  • Bourbon (2 oz)
  • Mint Leaves (8-10)
  • Simple Syrup (0.25 oz)

Long Island Iced Tea

2 Glasses of Long Island Iced Tea on a Table

For our final entry, we have included one of the strongest and most iconic cocktails in the world – the Long Island Iced Tea. Although it is unclear when and where the cocktail originated, it may not be a leap in logic to suggest that it was created by a raging alcoholic. Made by combining vodka, tequila, white rum, gin and triple sec with sweet and fizzy cola – the drink is arguably one of the strongest cocktails beloved around the world. So we don’t recommend purchasing one if strong alcoholic beverages are not your thing.

Ingredients:

  • Vodka (2 oz)
  • White Rum (2 oz)
  • Silver Tequila (2 oz)
  • Gin (2 oz)
  • Triple Sec (2 oz)
  • Simple Syrup (2 dashes)
  • Lemon Juice (1 oz)
  • Cola ( on top)

Irish Coffee

irish coffee

If you’re looking for a warm drink and a pick-me-up, an Irish coffee is a classic cocktail worth trying. The Irish coffee is made with your preferred Irish whiskey, hot coffee, a bit of sugar to sweeten it, and whipped heavy cream on top for a frothy head. There are many variations on this classic cocktail, but I think it’s worth trying the original at least once. If you prefer, you can always switch out the Irish whiskey for bourbon or rye whiskey.

Ingredients:

  • Hot coffee
  • Sugar (to taste)
  • Irish whiskey (1.5 oz)
  • Heavy cream

Bloody Mary

Bloody Mary - vodka, tomato juice, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, tabasco, black pepper, and celery mix

If you don’t want a mimosa, a bloody Mary is another classic brunch cocktail to choose. Unlike many other alcoholic beverages, the bloody Mary is savory and a bit spicy, with a tomato juice base. It’s touted as a great hangover cure if you believe in the hair of the dog. Today, many bars serve elaborate bloody Mary’s with all sorts of garnishes, from the classic celery stalk to bacon to cheeseburger sliders on top of your drink! Check out our list of the best vodkas to use for your next bloody and pair them with a pre-made bloody Mary mix for an easy at-home cocktail!

Ingredients:

  • Tomato juice (4oz)
  • Vodka (2 oz)
  • Horseradish
  • Tabasco sauce
  • Worcestershire sauce
  • Black pepper
  • Paprika
  • Lemon wedge
  • Lime wedge
  • Celery salt

23. Tom Collins

Cocktail tom collins, a classic drink recipe with gin, lemon juice and sugar syrup

The Tom Collins is a truly classic cocktail, and it’s very easy to make at home. You may have even had this mixed drink and not realized what it was called! The classic recipe is simple: it calls for gin, fresh lemon juice, simple syrup, and some club soda to top it off. You could also use a pre-mixed lemonade if you prefer, but you really can’t go wrong with this refreshing gin cocktail.

Ingredients:

  • London dry gin (2 oz)
  • Fresh lemon juice
  • Simple syrup
  • Club soda

Pisco Sour

pisco sour

If you ever travel to Peru or other areas of South America, you have to try a Pisco sour. This tasty cocktail is made with pisco, which is a light colored brandy made in areas of Peru and Chile. The other ingredients are classic for sour drinks: lime juice, egg white, some simple syrup, and aromatic bitters. Shake it all up in your cocktail shaker for a delicious and frothy sour cocktail!

Ingredients:

  • Pisco
  • Simple syrup
  • Lime juice
  • Egg white
  • Aromatic bitters

Dark N Stormy

dark and stormy cocktail

The Dark N Stormy is a tasty rum cocktail that you can make with only three ingredients. This simple three ingredient cocktail is considered a tropical rum drink, but it tastes great on any occasion in my opinion. All you’ll need is dark rum – preferably Gosling’s Black Seal Rum for the traditional recipe – topped with ginger beer and a squeeze of lime juice.

Ingredients:

  • Goslings Black Seal Rum
  • Ginger beer
  • Lime juice
  • Lime wedge

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Written by Brian Nagele

Brian attended West Virginia University, then started his career in the IT industry before following his passion for marketing and hospitality. He has over 20 years experience in the restaurant and bar industry.

As a former restaurant owner, he knows about running a food business and loves to eat and enjoy cocktails on a regular basis. He constantly travels to new cities tasting and reviewing the most popular spots.

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